The Theosophical
Society in Australia

With International Headquarters at Adyar, Chennai, India.

Canberra Group

Meets third Saturday of each month from 2 to 4pm

Coordinator: Gordon Herbert
Secretary: Barbara Harrod
Bulletins: Current and previous Bulletins from the Canberra Group can be viewed at

Meeting place: Friends' Meeting House, 17 Bent Steet, Turner (on the corner of Bent and Condamine Streets)
Meet: 2 - 4 pm 3rd Saturday each month.

2.00pm     Saturday 23 April

Topic: The Cathars

Presenter: Elayne Strahan

About the presenter:
Elayne Strahan
is a retired Commonwealth public servant with twenty-five years’ experience in social work practice, commonwealth social research, policy development and programme implementation for the Australian government. She has a social policy research Masters from the Australian Demographic Social Research Institute (ADSRI) at the Australian National University (ANU). 

Elayne has always had an interest in esoteric matters and has been involved in the spiritualist movement for forty years not just in Canberra but elsewhere in Australia. She is currently completing private research on the Cathars with the view of making her findings available to a wider audience by publication of a book that she is planning.

About the presentation:
Elayne has always had an interest in esoteric matters. In 2013, she travelled with her sister to Europe to discover more of their family’s ancestry. This included going to the south of France, where they went on a small tour to experience the landscape, and to learn more about the history of the Cathars who had resided there over 800 years ago. The chance observation of a curious statue in an old Cistercian Abbey, located in the Languedoc, gave full flight to their imagination. Why was something that seemed so Christian also something very ‘pagan’, such as an image found in fortune telling cards? Further, why in this abbey and why this location? Since then, Elayne and her sister have been researching these questions and looking at events that occurred in ‘Cathar Country’ all those centuries ago. They believe they have built a unique understanding as to who the Cathars were, what they believed and how they are still with us today.

Key Points for presentation and discussion:

  • Who are the Cathars and how do they feature in history?
  • Separating out Cathar romantic legends and notions of the Languedoc/Provence region from the facts.
  • Traditional Cathar history based on the military interventions and the politics of the Roman Catholic church. The seemingly benign influence of Aristotle.
  • Quick Historical overview of the region from pre-history to Cathar wars, including geography, ancient infrastructure (pagan/Christian) and famous historical figures.
  • What did they believe and why were they labelled a heresy?
  • Cultural and familial ties of the Cathars, including the feudal system and the Troubadours.
  • The aftermath for the Cathars and the start of the Inquisitions.

2.00pm     Saturday 21 May

Topic: Opening the doors of perception: The Chohan's gaze

Presenter: Jim Cloutman

About the presenter:
First joining the TS at 16, in the early seventies, Jim has an honours degree in comparative religion from King’s College, London University. He is an educationalist by profession, with a Ph.D in adult education. His key interest is in helping learners develop, through education, emotional intelligence and the many emotional attributes that are so badly needed in today’s world, such as resilience, resourcefulness and adaptability.

He has led a college that specialises in educational programs for at-risk groups, including people with disabilities, the unemployed and those recovering from drug and alcohol addiction, as well as juvenile justice and prison inmates. Currently he is working on two education-related projects. One is with the NSW government to develop learning programs in emotional intelligence for adult students. The second is with The Smith Family in relation to school attendance among disadvantaged students.

About the presentation:
Jim has had a fifty-year interest in Theosophy. In this presentation, he will explore the concept of ‘karma’, examining what it is, what it means for you and whether many of the perceptions we have about it are accurate or, rather, based on our inherited understandings about religion and life.

2.00pm     Saturday 18 June

Topic: What is Reality?

Presenter: Marie McArdle

About the presenter:
Marie joined the Theosophical Society (TS) 30 years ago. She was a member of the executive committee of Blavatsky Lodge in Sydney, including a term as President. She was also a member of the executive committee of the National Section of the TS.

Marie took up meditation and yoga in her late teens, also working as a chemist in the pharmaceutical industry, completing her bachelor of science majoring in applied chemistry.

In her early-twenties she studied naturopathy after experiencing an illness from a trip to China. She was drawn to the TS in an effort to try to understand the many psychic experiences that she had experienced while growing up. After completing her diploma in naturopathy she acquired a diploma in homoeopathy. She then travelled to India, working in a homoeopathic hospital in Kolkata (Calcutta). From there she made her way to the TS headquarters in Adyar, Chennai (Madras). Marie now writes and gives talks about her theosophical research and insights.

About the presentation:

Reality tends to mean different things to different people, but for most of us, because we live in a world of duality, we tend to think of Reality in comparison to an opposite in an effort to differentiate, or define it. So, for instance, we might think of Reality in comparison to Illusion, Fakery, Imagination, etc. However, for the purpose of this talk we will be looking at Reality through the lens of the Upanishads. The Upanishads define Reality as non-dual and therefore it plays no role in the idea of polarity or opposites. We will also be looking at Reality through the lens of some forerunners in the fields of philosophy (ancient and modern), neuroscience, physics (particularly quantum) and computer science. During the talk we will attempt to zoom out to see if we can see an unbroken thread that links these subjects to the Upanishads and its view of Reality - and consider why this might be the case.


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